In early 2019, Blue Line Arts hosted its first Mosaic Workshop for Women Veterans. Over the course of three weekends, local veteran women worked together to create a collaborative abstract work of art.
Led by teaching artist Jennifer McGuire, the participants learned every step in the mosaic creation process, and created a large-scale mosaic mural on backer-boards, working collaboratively to create flowing, abstract, pattern with ceramic tile pieces in a relaxed atmosphere encouraging reflection and expression. Using a watercolor translation technique, groups of different women each weekend were able to jump in and start creating, adding to the design within some loosely determined guidelines.
Each session began with an exercise in mindfulness by LMFT Gloria Rill, who practices Expressive Art Therapy. Using art as a therapeutic outlet is widely accepted, but it has been receiving increased attention for its effectiveness in helping veterans recover from PTSD and deal with stressors. Organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council have been focusing on programs built for and with veterans incorporating art as a therapeutic tool.
Blue Line's involvement in the program began with a 2018 pilot program in partnership with the Women Veteran's Alliance, bringing free clay mask-making workshops to local women veterans. Feedback from the pilot reinforced the idea that art classes can serve as a valuable tool to help veterans connect with their thoughts and feelings in a safe space, and also to form meaningful connections with their peer group.
One participant reflected that they were "grateful for [the chance] to spend quality time with other women veterans who are also going through similar things....we are stronger together."
When asked what they would take away from the experience, one veteran responded: "That it is OK to go out and actually do things with other people and that I will be OK. It is OK."
Another simply said, "To relax and be me."
All nine panels up on the wall - in a space that feels perfectly designed for this mural.
At the end of the workshop series, Blue Line Arts and the lead artist installed the completed mosaic mural panels, grouting the borders together to create one cohesive work of art. Titled “Coming Together” by the ladies who completed it, the piece was dedicated to local women veterans and installed in the public area of the new Lohse Apartments, an affordable housing initiative on Vernon Street.
Jennifer McGuire spent hours making the piece seamless in preparation for the dedication and grand opening.
The finished product! A second floor balcony makes a dreamy viewing platform for this abstract piece.
This program was offered completely free of charge and was made possible by a grant from the California Arts Council, partnership with Mercy Housing California, and donations from individuals. Special thanks to photographer James Morrison for the amazing shots of our veterans programs, and Kevin & Sam, our awesome contractors!
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